A number of broadcasters and technology vendors are using the Winter Games in Sochi as the launch pad for further 4K Ultra HD tests.
Among them is Russian pay TV operator NTV+, which aims to transmit 4K pictures to public viewing areas and cinemas.
“We have already been testing 4K in July in readiness for the Olympics and we very much want to demonstrate the technology to Russian viewers,” Oleg Kolesnikov, CTO told delegates at last year's IBC.
Comcast, which owns US Olympic rights holder NBCU, will record select events from the Games in 4K. Its chief technology officer Tony Werner said at CES: “We feel comfortable that we have the infrastructure to deliver 4K to the home, but we are more concerned with having enough content in the vault. To that end, we will be doing some stuff to stimulate the imagination with the Winter Olympics. We'll be showing what high frame rates and higher resolutions can do for sports to stimulate people's imagination and also, hopefully, the rest of the content ecosystem."
Comcast will integrate an app into new Samsung Ultra HD TV sets for on-demand streaming of 4K content direct to the sets.
"We like applications that take a lot of bandwidth," Werner added. "We have the capability to do it. We think its highly manageable all the way through. What's more important is getting the content cycle to start."
Official Olympics' sponsor Panasonic is to shoot the opening ceremony in 4K video, presumably on its 4K Varicam unit that is set to debut at NAB, although the company has a number of other 4K cameras in the works.
“Broadcasters are proving our workflows beyond the labs,” said Keith Wymbs, SVP marketing, Elemental Technologies, which is involved in a number of 4K tests out of Sochi. “They are getting further along in their experiments with an eye on the World Cup [Brazil] later this year. I expect by then the demonstrations will really be pretty good.”
There is a debate in terms of recorded streamed 4K content as to whether Ultra HD needs higher dynamic range and greater colour. In live sports the issue of higher frame rates to augment the higher resolution is more pertinent.
“I think over the course of 2014 you will see basic level 4K systems come in and that innovation will not stop,” said Wymbs. “For us, going to 10- or 12-bit depth colour is a software change. We've already shown 10-bit and up to 60fps in real time for encoding, and we can easily show 120fps for files, although we need decoders to do that. The HDR will be an increment operators can add to the Elemental platform with demand.”
Meanwhile NHK is to capture a number of events at Sochi in Super-HiVision, its 8K Ultra HD format, for public viewing, and remains on course to deliver a domestic broadcast service by 2020.
By Adrian Pennington